Q&A: What SPF should I use and is the protection in my day cream enough?

what SPF should I use

Wow, what a beautiful, sunny long-weekend we’ve just had. I’m sure you were out enjoying the sun like I was, but were you protecting your skin enough from the harmful and ageing UV rays? Sun protection is still a tricky subject to get right. You know a good SPF is essential to protect you from the sun, but are you using the right level of SPF? ‘What SPF should I use?’ is a common question dermatologists get asked because so many of us still refuse to believe we need such high factors here in the UK. You might think you’re beauty-savvy, because your moisturiser or even your foundation has SPF protection, but have you questioned if this is enough protection? You might think you’ve got yourself well-covered, but chances are you haven’t. I spoke to skincare guru, Dr Anjali Mahto, to get some answers…

How high an SPF should I use?

In simple terms, UVB rays from the sun are those that cause reddening or sunburn. SPF (sun protection factor) is a measure of how long a product will protect you from these burning rays. We all know the lighter our skin, the higher the SPF we need. Yet, I have friends that will only apply SPF15 even though they clearly burn quickly in the sun. ‘SPF 15 is fine for those with olive or darker skin types,’ says Dr Mahto. ‘SPF 30 for most white, Caucasian skin and those with very pale skin benefit from increasing the SPF to 50.’

Is the SPF in my moisturiser or foundation enough?

There is often confusion about this. ‘The truth is that most of us do not use enough of our cosmetic product to achieve the same SPF as a sunscreen alone,’ says Dr Mahto. We simply don’t apply enough of our moisturiser or foundation to cover us adequately. ‘In general terms, living in the UK as I do, using make-up with SPF when the days are short in the winter is probably fine. Due to our latitude, we get very little UVB between October and March. In the spring and summer, however, it is worthwhile switching to a separate sunscreen to be used after your regular moisturiser.’

You need UVA protection too

There is also another major reason, why you should use a separate suncream. UVA rays from the sun are those that penetrate deeper into the skin and cause signs of ageing (fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation etc…). There is no protection in your day cream (apart from a selected few) from UVA. Look for suncare labelled ‘broad-spectrum’ that has protection from both damaging UVA and UVB. Confusingly, there is no world-wide labelling system for UVA protection. In the UK, we mainly use a star system or a UVA Sign in a circle.

Using a separate sun cream on top of your daily moisturiser is therefore essential if you want to truly protect yourself from the sun, and are concerned about skin cancer and ageing. And that’s not just on sunny days, use it every day.

My favourite broad-spectrum face sun creams

Best for: Applying on top of moisturiser
La-Roche Posay Anthelios Shaka Ultra-Light Facial Sun Cream SPF50, usually £16.50 but £11.55 HERE
This is my favourite purse-friendly, broad-spectrum option. A small amount goes a very long way.

Best for: Swapping with your foundation
Ultrasun SPF30 or SPF50 Tinted Face Cream, usually £26 but £20.80 HERE
I use this most days instead of foundation. It comes out slightly dark at first, but blends in after a minute or two and colour corrects – adding warmth to your skin tone. I love it!

Best for: Oily/sensitive skin types
SkinCeuticals Mineral Radiance UV Defense SPF50, £41
A great mineral option if you have a sensitive complexion, or have broken out from other sun care. It is also mattifying, so oily and combination skin types will love it too.

Best for: Doubling-up as a moisturiser
Jurlique UV Defence Lotion, £32
This feels so moisturising when you apply that if you have a normal skin type you could skip moisturiser altogether. It absorbs instantly, so great for under make-up and has a beautiful light, lavender scent.

Want to understand your skin better? You'll love Dr. Anjali Mahto's book The Skincare Bible: Your No-Nonsense guide to Great Skin

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